Rochester is not my city.
I was born and raised here. I’ve reported on and written about people who call it home. Sometimes after visiting another city I appreciate its lack of traffic, the way Mother Nature announces herself (re: I’ll take thunderstorms over earthquakes), and that I know my way around.
It’s not that I don’t feel any sense of community. I have family, friends, routines, and favorite restaurants here. There are a lot of people I like, recognize, and say greetings to in passing.
Community Matters yet…
Community is something I’m pretty confident I can find wherever I roam. It’s part of being the sort of person who strives to get along with people and who wants to understand where they are coming from — at least most of the time. Sometimes I am crabby and impatient and just want to be left alone.
When I was in Manhattan for a week with my fiance it only took a few times at the same coffee shop for the barista to know my order. I had my hair blowcombed by a sweet couple who had just moved to the Manhattan from Japan. It’s the only time I’ve ever had two people working on my hair at once. They did amazing work and were fun to talk with. The next time I’m in the city, I’m sure I’ll go to their salon. A friend from an improv class my fiance and I took in Minneapolis lives in Brooklyn and we spent a day together crossing Brooklyn Bridge, taking the subway, and finding great places to eat and drink.
I can feel a sense of community in Manhattan pretty easy. I’d just have to get used to the sassy panhandlers. They rather enjoy picking on me. A sense of community isn’t enough to make me feel that something special for a city.
If I moved away after 40 years of living here, I would miss the Rochester Athletic Club and its instructors, Rocco Altobelli Salon, and the Hy-Vee nearest my home. Missing family and friends is a given. If I moved, I might be nearer some though.
Plenty of people are proud to call Rochester, Minnesota home.
They identify in a way that I don’t. John Sievers is one of them. He’s well-known about town as The D’Sievers’s trombonist. This past June he celebrated 365 days of t-shirts that honored local musicians, artists, businesses, and organizations. Pictures of his endeavor can be seen on his Instagram at @johnsievers507. For any non-locals reading this: 507 is Rochester’s area code.
I was curious about what John had learned about the community during the past year.
“The biggest insight I’ve had during the Rochester t-shirt tribute is that Rochester is a vital city that is full of people who are passionate about what they do whether it is roller derby, providing transitional housing for people with substance abuse issues, or playing punk music,” John said. “I’ve also learned that when you trust people from Rochester and ask them to support something important to you, they’ll help you accomplish your goals. I’ve also learned that we have a camel that lives here, and that broomball is a thing.”
Broomball I’d heard of. The camel in town, I had not. I think people here are much like people most places: good and caring and wanting the best for those they care about. I do envy John for living in a city that must really feel like home to him.
Rochester is a medical city.
It’s home to the world famous Mayo Clinic. Artistic talent is abundant and under appreciated here. It boasts a number of restaurants that I’m happy to spend a few extra calories at. We even have interesting stores: Dwell Local, Mainstream Boutique, and Poppi to name a few.
I feel a little Sondheim about Rochester. “You’re not good, you’re not bad, you’re just nice.” Then I feel guilty for feeling that way about it, because John isn’t the only one I know who loves the city. Heather Holmes, Regina Mustafa, and Sheila Kiscaden are just a few of the people I know who care about Rochester and what it becomes as it grows.
What is my city?
Chicago could be my city. I love its theater and restaurant scene, and Lake Michigan. Maybe NYC. San Francisco has too out there of a vibe for me (which is weird given my love for and/or fascination with Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and ‘60s counterculture).
If I have a city, I think it’s San Diego. The weather is steady, my asthma and allergies don’t flare, and there are so many outdoorsy adventures to go on. Plus, I can navigate and drive it like a champ. Earthquakes are the only negative about the place. I remember a beachside bartender saying to the group I was with, “It’s just another shitty day in San Diego.” 78 degrees, a soft breeze, and gorgeous.
Do you know what your city is? Do you live there? What makes it a place you feel at home in? I’d love to know. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.